Charges recommended in Derek Williams inquest

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Charges recommended in Derek Williams inquest

By Lacey Crisp with the WTMJ News Team. CREATED Feb 19, 2013 - UPDATED: Feb 21, 2013

MILWAUKEE - A jury has decided that charges are recommended against three Milwaukee Police officers in the inquest about the controversial death of a man inside a police car.

Though the jury's decision will not be binding, it could send a message.

The jury said that there is probable cause to say that officers involved could have rendered aid to Derek Williams, and failed to do so.

The jury did not decide if the three officers involved are guilty or innocent, but whether charges should be recommended against the officers accused in the case.

"There has to be an intentional failure to give attention, which means the officer had to know first aid was necessary and know that bodily harm would result," said special prosecutor John Franke.

Williams died from a sickle-cell condition, one that deprives the body of oxygen.

"Could any person believe that Derek Williams is OK talking about the offense, led nicely about the squad car, and suddenly a switch goes off, and then he's the person we see in the back of the squad car in grave distress?" asked Franke.

"CPR was done.  Mouth to mouth without a mask was done.  Aid was given."

The prosecutor has decided there will be no felony charges against police.

The jury will only consider charges against officers for failure to render aid.  They asked a judge to see the video of Derek Williams in the back of the squad car.

Special Prosecutor John Franke said there wasn't enough evidence to ask for homicide charges.

We heard from two officers who initially pleaded the fifth, but today said what they saw the night Williams died.

Officer Patrick Coe testified he heard Williams complain he couldn't breathe while he was on his stomach being arrested.

“I remember he said ‘I can't breathe’, or something to that effect,” said Coe.

Squad car video shows Williams complaining he couldn't breathe. He died from sickle cell crisis, a condition that deprives the body of oxygen.

Sergeant Robert Thiel arrived just as Williams was on the ground being handcuffed, and said he checked to see if Williams was ok.

“He was laying on the ground, with his eyes closed,” said Thiel. “It didn't appear that he was breathing hard. It just looked like he was laying peacefully on the ground with his eyes closed.”

The officers say they were able to get Williams to walk to the squad car.

Officer Coe testified after they put Williams in the car, he left to look for evidence. But that's when he heard another officer call for help. When he got back to the car, Williams was on the ground.

“I checked his pulse, and gave him a sternum rub,” said Coe. “He wasn't responding, so I started CPR and compressions.”

Members of Williams’ family did not know Franke wasn't going to recommend homicide charges. They said me they are still planning on the federal government filing charges.

Milwaukee Police Captain Aaron Raap responded Thursday afternoon by saying - "Chief Flynn appreciates the diligence and professionalism of Special Prosecutor Franke. The Milwaukee Police Department has cooperated and will continue to cooperate with this process."